Many automobile makers are trying their hardest to wring as much performance and fuel economy out of vehicles through force-fed ‘mini me’ motors with five, four, or even three cylinders.
Then there are those companies that are run by old-school car enthusiasts who value performance and responsiveness courtesy of eight pots and above, pumping out power to burn.
One such unlikely manufacturer following the tradition is Lexus, the luxury arm of Toyota, with its F Series designed to attract a new type of customer – one with a passion for driving dynamics and out-and-out power. Not that the birth was an easy one.
In a cloak-and-dagger operation engineering boss Yukihiko Yaguchi bypassed official channels to begin work on what was to become the Lexus IS F V8 sedan, which came to Australia in 2008, followed by the LFA V10 supercar and RC F V8 coupe.
Those early ‘silent nights’ set the ball rolling, with Yaguchi san being involved in the RC F coupe and LFA supercar. Now comes the GS F four-door sedan, with Yaguchi, still there, this time as emeritus chief engineer on the project.
Heart of the GS F is a 351 kW 5-litre V8 mated with an intelligent eight-speed transmission driving the rear wheels – all the ingredients to make the F fan’s mouth water.
Needless to say, the power plant is backed up by a high-end range of standard specification, such as four-mode drive select and all manner of vehicle dynamic management, 19-inch alloy wheels with Brembo brakes with orange calipers, LED headlamps, colour head-up display 10 airbags and 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system.
Occupants are in the hands of the Lexus Safety System+ which includes pre-collision system, active cruise control, lane keeping assist and adaptive high beam system.
Two models are on offer; the first fitted with motor-sport inspired Alcantara seat trim with heating front and back, while the upper grade features premium semi-analine leather seat accents with ventilation all round.
Prices are $148,800 and $151,700 respectively, plus on-road costs. Options include 19-inch polished alloy wheels ($2500) and carbon interior ornamentation ($2500).
With all vehicle stability controls switched off it is possible to get the GS F sideways, as I experienced from the co-driver’s seat with rally champion Rick Bates behind the wheel on laps of Mallala race circuit in South Australia.
With safety systems fully operable, I found it impossible to unsettle the same car on the same track. The driving experience was only heightened by the change in engine note under acceleration.
The Lexus ‘Abbey Road’ department had been hard at work giving the exhaust a ‘more baritone’ note, while adding an electronic in-cabin sound system to reinforce the aural character of increasing speed.
Speakers in the front and rear of the cabin electronically produce sounds that rise with engine speed and emphasises the exhaust note behind the vehicle. The system can be turned off by the driver via a switch on the instrument panel.
With variable valve timing and direct fuel injection the 32-valve quad cam 5-litre V8 engine pumps out 351 KW of power at 7100 rpm and 530 Nm of torque between 4800 and 5600 rpm. Combined cycle fuel economy is put at 11.3 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions meet Euro 6 standards.
Two G-sensors and artificial intelligence swing into action for optimum sports driving on winding roads and adopt full converter lock-up from second to eighth gears in manual mode.
Gear shifts take fractions of a second, while driving pleasure is enhanced with the transmission’s throttle blipper matching the engine speed to the gear. The tachometer displays the gear engaged.
The Lexus Drive Mode Select function offers Eco, Normal, Sports and Sport S+ settings and the transmission has three driver selectable vehicle management settings.
A torque vectoring system provides optimum torque to each rear wheel regardless of whether the accelerator is pressed. Standard is the default mode; Slalom adjusts steering and agility to that of a smaller vehicle; Track produces consistent stable handling.
High body rigidity comes via high-strength steel, sophisticated bonding, laser screw and spot welding, which provide a stable foundation for the new suspension.
The exterior is designed with lines pleasing to the eye, yet with a high level of aerodynamic and cooling efficiency. The Lexus trademark spindle grille dominates the front, while the rear features a diagonally-stacked exhaust diffuser, a characteristic of the high-performance F series.
F series luxuries also find their way into the cabin, with premium bucket seats first used in the RC F coupe. Alcantara can be found on the upper meter hood and centre console, imbuing a sense of luxury, and on the practical side, reducing reflection on the windscreen for the driver and front passenger.
A major safety function is lane keeping assist incorporates lane departure warning which alerts the driver with steering wheel vibration and a warning message if he or she is veering outside the lane without signalling. The system can be switched off by the driver.
AT A GLANCE
Lexus GS F sedan: $148,800
Lexus GS F sedan high grade: $151,700
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Lexus dealer for drive-away prices.